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Montana congressman-elect admits fault, apologizes for ‘assault’ of reporter

Greg Gianforte celebrates his win over Rob Quist for the open congressional seat at the Hilton Garden Inn, Thursday night, May 25, 2017, in Bozeman, Mont. The Republican multimillionaire Gianforte won Montana's only U.S. House seat on Thursday despite being charged a day earlier with assault after witnesses said he grabbed a reporter by the neck and threw him to the ground. After being declared the winner, Gianforte apologized both to Jacobs and to the Fox News crew for having to witness the attack. (Rachel Leathe, Bozeman Daily Chronicle)

PHOENIX — A Montana Republican running for a congressional seat got into a dispute with a reporter on the eve of the election in May.

Initially, Republican Greg Gianforte’s campaign blamed the incident entirely on Ben Jacobs, a Guardian reporter.

On Wednesday night, Gianforte sent Jacobs a letter apologizing for his conduct, admitting he was the one at fault.

“I write to express my sincere apology for my conduct on the evening of May 24. My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful,” Gianforte said in the letter.

He went on to say, “Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you. I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.”

This contradicts a statement made by Gianforte’s spokesperson Shane Scanlon, who on the night of the incident claimed it was Jacobs who started the physical interaction between the two.

“Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions.

“Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

Jacobs posted audio from his recorder shortly after, where it appeared to show Gianforte repeatedly telling Jacobs to “get the hell out of here” before a scuffle ensued.

Police officers investigated the incident and Gianforte was charged with assault.

The altercation didn’t affect the voters enough into choosing Democrat Rob Quist though, as Gianforte won the election and the congressional seat.

Gianforte closed his letter to Jacobs by claiming he will make a $50,000 contribution to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

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